Throughout the school year, students must pass a number of tests — and none have the potential to impact their future more than the test of judgment they’ll face when their peers pressure them to use drugs. That’s why the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation is working with the nonprofit group notMYkid and First Check Diagnostics Company to bring substance-abuse prevention tools to Los Angeles County families. The partnership has provided more than 300 First Check home drug-testing kits to be distributed through VIDA’s parent education program, with the goal of encouraging parents and children to talk about the dangers of drugs, giving parents a way to know if their child is using them, and offering children a tangible reason to resist peer pressure.
NotMYkid is a charitable organization committed to promoting healthy life choices by educating young people, families and communities about the consequences of destructive youth behaviors, and providing the skills and information to make positive decisions. With the help of First Check, NotMYkid’s “Back to School” substance-abuse prevention campaign has given away 4,000 drug-testing kits in 13 cities across the country. The kits test for seven illicit drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, amphetamines and PCP) and five prescription ones (antidepressants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone and oxycodone) with over 99% accuracy.
SYF’s kits were deployed through Vital Intervention Directional Alternatives (VIDA), a redirectional program for youth between the ages of 11 and 17 1/2 who have displayed delinquent behaviors and are at risk of continuing or becoming involved in criminal activity. Parents of participants also attend weekly classes, and Sergeant Mark Cripe introduced the drug tests to them at the Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita VIDA Academies in September.
“We had a display of the kits as the parents walked in, to spark interest and curiosity,” says Cripe. “Then we passed the kits out, answered questions, and gave them some insight on when might be the best time to test a child.” The presentation included walking the parents through the entire drug-testing process, taking a kit apart and explaining each piece. Each kit comes with clear instructions and the option to send the sample to a lab for further testing, and the products are available at local stores if parents want to continue using them in the future. “Parents were happy to have the option of home testing,” says Cripe.
The program emphasizes that drug testing is not meant to be used as a threat or punishment, but rather as a way to help youth maintain the progress they have already made, with the knowledge that they are accountable for their choices. Cripe says the partnership enhances VIDA’s overall mission: “Our goal is to educate and equip parents with the skills and tools needed to continue positive family growth.”